DeMar DeRozan came up big for the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the Raptors from falling 102-98 at Barclays Center on Friday night.
While DeRozan became the first Raptors player in franchise history to score 30 points in consecutive postseason games, the loss means the Nets take a 2-1 series lead.
The Raptors had a lot of things go wrong. They racked up 19 turnovers and were unable to stop Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. Terrence Ross was limited to 22 minutes and both Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson played through injury. Trailing by 15 points with four minutes remaining, Toronto reeled off a crazy comeback and almost eked out the win.
“I love the fight from our team,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “This team tried to throw haymakers at us and go at us and we did a good job battling back, staying in the game and competing.”
Thanks to clutch shooting, aggressive drives and a three-point play from DeRozan with 34 seconds remaining, the Raptors gave themselves a chance to tie the game with 19 seconds on the clock. Patrick Patterson missed a pair of free throws, and Johnson and Pierce clinched the game for Brooklyn by finishing 4-for-4 from the line in the final 14 seconds.
“The difference in this game was turnovers,” Casey said. “We have to meet their physicality. We have to understand how the officials are calling this game and play accordingly.”
DeRozan agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“We can’t wait till they pick up their aggressiveness and then pick it up too,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got to be aggressive throughout the whole game.”
When Casey sat DeRozan in the second quarter, the momentum shifted in favour of the Nets. While DeRozan struggled in Game 1, he has been able to shake off the nerves and be Toronto’s go-to guy in each of their last two games.
Thanks to Brooklyn’s physicality, Lowry ended up with a busted lip that required a stitch to close it. When a reporter asked him about his status for Sunday’s game, he brushed off the question. Casey expects his point guard to be all right despite the bumps and bruises.
“He banged knees,” Casey said. “He’s got a sore knee, a big knot on his knee, big knot on his elbow, busted lip. He’s been in a 50-round bout. But he’s going to be okay.”
There will be a lot to look at when the Raptors go over film on Saturday. Jonas Valanciunas was limited by foul trouble, but still only attempted four field goals. He made all of them. After going with an eight-man rotation in Game 2, Casey went with 11 players on Friday as he searched for answers to slow Johnson and Williams.
Johnson finished with 29 points to lead the Nets. Williams scored 22 and Paul Pierce added 18. Although the Raptors threw various defenders at Johnson, they were unable to slow the seven-time All-Star down.
“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure we have help get there quicker,” Casey said of the matchups with Johnson and Williams. “When we do get there we’re in pretty good shape in those situations. We’ve got to make sure we recognize where they are on the floor.”
With sophomore Ross struggling in his first playoff series and Amir Johnson slowed by a back that sent him back to the locker room in the second half to be stretched out, the Raptors needed more production from their bench. Patterson was huge for the team during its fourth quarter comeback and finished with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting in 29 minutes.
The positive: the Raptors could have stolen an unlikely victory had Patterson connected on a pair of free throws or Greivis Vasquez not been hit with a questionable technical with less than a minute remaining. The negative: they allowed a veteran Nets team to dictate the pace and style of the game and didn’t impose their will until it was too late.
In the postseason, every possession counts. Come Sunday, the Raptors need to show up for 48 minutes if they would like to return to Toronto with the series tied.